The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world as we knew it. Hospitality is probably one of the most damaged industries in our new reality.

When guests are allowed to visit hotels and restaurants, hosts must take numerous extra precautions to provide a safe, risk-free environment.

This is challenging—very challenging.

But not impossible.

Apple has managed to stay on top of trends offering technologies for new, “fewer-contacts” experiences.

In this post, we discuss how new features in iOS 14 can help with social distancing inside hotels, particularly in dining rooms.

1 Why social distancing doesn’t work in busy hotel restaurants.

Social distancing does work in a hotel restaurant—when business is slow.

But when busy? Not so much.

It is hard to manage all precaution protocols and organize proper distancing when many guests arrive.

Is it irreparably broken?

No. Our recent vacation has shown the tourism industry is serious about the challenges involved with necessary precautions.

Measures included:

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    hand sanitizers at entrances
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    regular indoor cleansing
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    non-contact temperature check
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    mandatory wearing of masks in public places

…and more.

Everything is designed so guests limit contact with staff and other guests as much as possible.

And yet, a weak point remains. Mealtimes.

Hotel restaurants and social distancing are completely incompatible.

Let’s look more closely.

How did hotel restaurants work before the COVID-19 pandemic?

Usually, hotels offered an all-inclusive, all-day-long buffet. Guests would just go in and grab what they wanted. Social distancing was non-existent.

And now? What changed when the pandemic broke out?

Now, there are two scenarios on how hotels cater guests:

  • Buffets remain but waiters bring the food. Diners do not touch anything and keep their distance inside the dining room. Is social distancing really respected? Not likely. Hungry guests start forming queues right at the entrance.
  • Main buffets at hotels, previously open 24/7, are now closed. Instead, à-la-carte restaurants are open. Guests are seated and order meals from a waiter. However, this is convenient only when hotel occupancy is at 15 – 20% level. When the number grows, the ordering system tends to collapse.

Why? There are at least three bottlenecks in both scenarios:

  • Ordering takes unreasonably long.
  • Queues do not disappear.
  • Extra workload on staff is created.

A plus is that a rack card with a QR-code is on every table for dine-in guests. They scan it and open the menu in their smartphone browser to place an order. This is a clear advantage because it saves time: no waiting for the waiter to bring the menu then wait some more for the waiter to return to take the order.

But the downside is that is some restaurants, the menu is usually available as a PDF file. Reading a PDF from a smartphone is inconvenient. It is not suited for quick scrolling. Guests must zoom in to read the text.

And some restaurants have several dining options. Each with a different menu. Guests find downloading several pdfs inconvenient, at best. More irritating and frustrating than helpful.

With each cumbersome dining hurdle, a guest’s dine-in opinion drops and they remember a less-than-stellar experience despite all positive moments.

2 How does Apple iOS 14 help with ordering food in hotels and restaurants?

In iOS 14, Apple introduces App Clips—an app that simplifies the ordering process.

App Clips are mini versions (up to 10 Mb) of iOS mobile apps that contain only basic functionality.

Users can use App Clips without actually downloading an app from the App Store.

App Clips allow users to benefit from specific functionality without having to download the whole app. By being allowed to focus on the part of functionality they need immediately, users can finish a specific task within seconds. When users need the app on a regular basis, they can download a fully featured app and the data will be transferred automatically.

What benefits does App Clips provide? Users get instant access to the functionality they need in an app, right here, right now but are unlikely to use for more than a couple of times.

 iOS 14 app clips

Tourists often download hundreds of apps which they use to build routes, search for local attractions, order guided tours, and so on. With time, it gets hard to navigate through the growing number of apps. Of course, users can sort them into folders. However, the number of folders also grows with time, and the entire sorting process may become endless.

Everyone wins when users get instant access to certain functionality they need and use a couple of times when visiting a certain location.

How does App Clips work for a restaurant menu?

This can be the following scenario:

  • Scan a special QR code to activate App Clips.
  • Display current menu for chosen restaurant on smartphone screen.
  • Select meals and add to cart.
  • Confirm your order.

That’s it! Fast. Simple.

No need to waste time downloading and later deleting an app. When users want a fully functional app, they can download it whenever they want.

3 What kind of user experience does the iOS 14 offer?

What process optimization is possible?

Check out App Clips minimum feature list. It solves problems when ordering meals at hotels:

  • Quick launch
  • Menu of other restaurants to help guests decide in advance what they are going to have for breakfast.
  • Menu of chosen restaurant divided into categories.
  • Menu for the current day.
  • Chosen meals placed in cart.
  • Order button with option to book a table. (Or displays table number for dine-in guests).
  • Additional comments for your order to ensure it is done correctly.

As a result, users receive their confirmation order numbers, one order number for each user. When a group arrives in the dining room, they show their respective order number to the waiter. This helps the waiter bring the meals more quickly. Therefore, the app helps reduce long queues and short tempers.

An anti-fraud improvement is also possible. There are at least two approaches that prevent a scenario where a swindler launches an app remotely and starts spamming a restaurant.

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    Users can order only while sitting in the restaurant. iBeacons helps here. They enable order processing only when guests are nearby. iBeacons can be installed at the table or anywhere inside the restaurant.
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    User identification via a tourist voucher number or ID card. All hotels have a specific identification and all guests go through an identification process when connecting to the Wi-Fi network.

4 How much do businesses pay to get App Clips?

At IT Craft, we always keep up to date with new technologies. We determine their pros and cons in real-life situations. Do they fit in with user needs? How do they make users’ lives easier? What are their benefits? What are their limitations? We form our own impressions and practical experience.

This is why our R&D department created an App Clips prototype for ordering food. It took only 80 working hours to sketch, develop, test, and launch an App Clips prototype.

A powerful, fully functional app with a back-end will definitely cost more. Still, development price for a simple App Clips is only 15% for a fully featured app which starts with 450 hours. And it covers all essential steps of ordering.

An App Clips solution does a great job making tourists happy—no need to try and catch waiters’ attention then wait ages for your food order.


Please note: App Clips works only for iOS 14. Make sure you have updated your OS.

qr code for app clips